How do you guarantee repeat business in the modern world?

Over the last year it seems to me that much of the country has coped with lockdown by purchasing “stuff” online. Money saved from being unable to eat out, go to the gym or on holiday appears to be being spent instead on everything from house makeovers to new cars and Peloton exercise bikes.

Over the years I’ve occasionally indulged in such purchases, often followed by buyer’s remorse as the items seldom lived up to expectations, or failed to resolve whatever woe I was trying to compensate for. There are of course exceptions and every once in a while I found something that made me truly happy (at least for a bit). I call these my “glow and tingle purchases”, and they are why I return to those vendors over and again. Why was I so happy with them? The reason is simple: they exceeded my expectations in some meaningful way. These are the products and services I evangelically tell my family and friends about and encourage them to use.

It reminds me of some advice I received many years ago from the late Scott Galt in relation to my own practice. “Clients who receive poor service might not come back to you. Those that receive good service might return, but it is only those who are left with that ‘glow and tingle’ feeling that are guaranteed to instruct you again.” Now, we will all recall situations where we know we haven’t performed at our best but the client still returned, for reasons best known to them. Clients we have done a good job for, though, only “might” return? That for me was a real lightbulb moment. I always thought if I did a good job, that would be enough to bind them to me forever.

On reflection it makes sense, though. They received what they paid for, no more, no less. Like any other transaction, if we get what we expected for the agreed price, while that may encourage us to return to that vendor, it is far from guaranteed and I am sure you can think of many examples in your own life where you have subsequently elected to shop around. Can you imagine saying to friends: “I had a fair meal at a fair price; you really must try it?”

In a service industry like law the position is particularly difficult, as so much depends on the customer “experience”, more so at times than even the result. Everything may be carried out professionally with the best outcome for the client, yet issues like slow communication or poorly managed expectations can lead to clients questioning whether or not, in their eyes, they received what they paid for. More complaints and lost clients arise from delays in returning calls, or misunderstood communications, than almost any other area; they remain among the most common sources of complaints to the SLCC, and yet communication is what we as solicitors are supposed to do well. Like all issues, though, being aware of them is half the battle in resolving them.

So the question I am left with is, how do we add that glow and tingle feeling to our own clients’ experience? There is no one answer, but for those of you who don’t do it already, perhaps the best people to ask are the clients themselves. All feedback, but particularly where it is negative, will provide clear guidance on where you can improve. The recurring question for us all, I believe is, how do we continue to add value to our clients’ experience? Whether it is more telephone time, different charging structures, or simpler letters or documents, if we can leave clients with that glow and tingle feeling at the end of their transaction, not only will we be guaranteed their future business but we will have found ourselves a constant stream of fabulous advocates for our firms.

The Author

Stephen Vallance works with HM Connect, the referral and support network operated by Harper Macleod

If any of the topics that I cover resonate with you or there is a particular issue that you’d like raised, please contact me at stephen.vallance@hmconnect.co.uk

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